Campaign to find DELTA schools
Starting next school year, the Netherlands will have 15 DELTA Researchers Schools. To qualify for this special title, Dutch primary schools have to develop a lesson plan using human spaceflight to encourage pupils to take an interest in science and technology. The schools that propose the best ideas will receive funds to put their ideas into practice.
The Researchers Schools are an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, ESA and NASA. On Wednesday 8 December the three partners marked the official start of the initiative by signing an agreement at a meeting in The Hague.
According to Elena Grifoni, responsible for the International Space Station Education Programme at ESA, this is exactly the right timing to launch the campaign, which is named after the recent Dutch Soyuz DELTA Mission: "During André Kuipers' mission in April everyone was able to see how human spaceflight and the International Space Station can play an important roll in education - for example, when 70 000 school children took part in the 'Seeds in Space' experiment. We want to continue what we started as it fits into the strategy of the Ministry of Education, ESA and the European Union".
The ministry will be responsible for the coordination of the 'space schools'. The participation criteria will be announced at the start of next year, with final selection of the schools to take place during the summer. What is already clear is that the lesson plan should target groups six, seven and eight (last three years of Dutch junior school - pupils aged 10-12) for a period of three years.
A group of teachers from the participating schools will be invited by NASA to attend a summer workshop together with teachers from the American NASA Explorer School programme. In this way the ties between the NASA and the Netherlands will be strengthened, according to Clifford Sobel, American Ambassador to the Netherlands who also attended the signing.
ESA will provide support to the participating teachers and supply them with teaching materials. ESA will also organise a live radio contact with the crew on board the Space Station at least once a year, enabling pupils to put their questions to the astronauts in space.
Space Action Plan
The DELTA Researcher Schools are part of the five-year Space Action Plan announced by the Dutch ministries for Economic Affairs and for Education, Culture and Science in November. An important objective of the Action Plan is the use of space exploration to promote science and technology to schoolchildren. Grifoni: "The International Space Station and the unique circumstances on board provide an ideal platform."